The UK’s first full local blockade was announced in Leicester, with stricter measures imposed in the city.
Non-essential stores will close on Tuesday and schools will close for most students on Thursday because of an increase in coronavirus cases.
The easing of restrictions on bars and restaurants in England on Saturday will also not occur there.
The health secretary said the measures will be applied by the police “in some cases”.
Matt Hancock said the city had “10% of all positive cases in the country last week”.
This is after the city council registered 944 positive tests in the two weeks to 23 June – about one in 16 of the UK’s total cases during that period.
The health secretary told the House of Commons on Monday night: “We recommend that people in Leicester stay at home as long as they can and we recommend against all travel, except essentials, to, from and within Leicester.”
He added that the new local measures would be in place for at least two weeks, but kept under constant review.
Hancock said the Leicester infection rate of 135 days in 135 cases per 100,000 people was “three times higher than the next highest city” and hospital admissions were between six and 10 per day – compared with about one per day in other trusts.
The relaxation of protective measures on July 6 – which will allow the most clinically vulnerable to spend more time away – will also not occur in the city.
He said schools are being closed to help slow the transmission of the disease and parents in other areas should not be afraid to continue sending their children to school.
The health secretary told the BBC Breakfast that there has been an “unusually high incidence” of coronavirus among children in Leicester since they started increasing tests in the city 10 days ago.
The closure of schools on Thursday, instead of immediately, was “for practical reasons”, as parents who need to find day care centers, he added.
Five schools in Leicester have been closed since the beginning of June because of the number of coronavirus cases and the broader closure will affect most students, but the children of “critical workers” and those classified as vulnerable will still be able to participate.
Leicester suburbs, such as Oadby, Birstall and Glenfield, will also be affected, but Hancock said details of the Leicestershire wards covered by the new blocking measures will be published “soon”.
The Leicester city council said: “The latest figures obtained by the city council show that 3,216 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Leicester since the epidemic began. Of these, 944 cases have been reported in the past two weeks.
“These numbers include the number of patients and staff testing positive in hospitals … and positive cases identified in testing centers.”
Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said the measures imposed by the government are “more stringent than we anticipated, but we understand the need for firm action”.
Sir Peter said: “[The government] is clearly determined to start with the maximum, so to speak, to see how it works and, perhaps, to learn from it in other areas that we will undoubtedly follow.
“I understand from [the government’s] perspective – they are fully convinced that the level of disease transmission in Leicester is at a higher level than I think the numbers show.”
Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton said “protecting residents is our primary concern” and added that “it makes sense to tighten restrictions in areas closer to the city”.
Hancock said the government also “agreed to new measures” to combat the outbreak:
- A test center will be opened in the city, along with mobile test units
- City and county councils will receive “extra funds” to improve communications with the population at Covid-19 in all relevant languages
- The councils will guarantee “the support available to those who need to isolate themselves”
- Workplaces that become “case groups” will be helped to implement strict Covid-19 guidelines.
He added that the government “is still getting to the bottom” of the possible reasons why the outbreak in Leicester occurred.
Blake Edwards, owner of the Flappers and Gentlemen salon, said he was “devastated” by the news.
The hairdresser was due to reopen on Saturday, but now it will remain closed “with no new date in sight”.
He said, “It will be very difficult for customers as well.
“Time is running out [for business now], we’re going to need more support.
“Although the team is being distributed, the rent still has to be paid, all other bills still have to be paid.
“We don’t know what the next 12 months will be like.”
Leicester’s Highcross shopping center tweeted on Monday night that “only essential stores”, alongside “restaurants and cafes offering delivery or delivery services”, would open on Tuesday.
Rakesh Parmar, owner of Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe in the city center, said the additional restrictions would affect him “financially very, very badly”.
He said: “The impact of the coronavirus hit us on March 23, we closed for 10 weeks and then opened again on June 15 – it has been a long hard work”.
Parmar said he “fully understood” why a new block would be necessary, but asked how his customers were feeling. He said: “Very, very scared because it is closer to home than we imagined”.
Speaking after Mr. Hancock on Commons, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “We were alerted about the situation in Leicester 11 days ago.
“If we want – as a nation – to facilitate blocking without problems, the areas with outbreaks will need a faster response; otherwise, we run the risk that no mole will be hit.”
Leicester West MP Liz Kendall criticized the government for being “too slow” to relate to the city council and added: “In recent days, there have been reports off the record, making people anxious and confused.”
Meanwhile, southern Leicestershire deputy Alberto Costa said he was working to obtain “necessary clarity” about the areas affected by the localized blockade.
Dr. Luke Evans, of Hinckley and Bosworth, also said he was “awaiting the official map of the blockade area”.
Dr Bharat Pankhania, a former communicable disease control consultant at Public Health England, told BBC Radio 4 that the situation in Leicester was “a reflection of a premature lifting of blocking measures” that “were not rigorous enough in no case “.
“Where you have a circulating virus level plus a susceptible population – one that has never had this infection before – everyone is a target.
“It is long overdue for us to have local control for local outbreaks, because in six or nine months we will have these outbreaks in Manchester, Birmingham or other major cities, so it is better to lubricate and lubricate the local response machines.”